How do I write about the mass shooting that happened in our beloved city, the worst one our country has yet to experience? How do I put words to the anger, confusion, grief, and disconnect I felt? Even those words miss the mark.
Monday was the same as every other Monday, except it wasn’t. I yell at the the kids to hurry up and get in the car so we can make it to school on time, but on our way I carefully tell them what happened. I tell them a man hurt a lot of people, that some of them died, and they respond in pure childlikeness: “That wasn’t nice.”
No, sweet babies, it wasn’t.
I force myself to read the articles, to take in the numbers of deaths, of those injured. Like a mother, I want to put my arms around Las Vegas- the place we called home- and hold it while it cries, to protect it from the good intentions of those who mean well but who don’t know it like we do, who haven’t lived there and love it like we do. For once I don’t have the capacity to keep scrolling, so I close my computer and walk away from my desk…
At the end of August, we will have been in California for a full year. Others who made similar uprooting transitions before told me it would take at least a year to adjust, two years to finally feel settled, and it’s been true for us so far. The blessings, the benefits, the bright side of living here with family and near friends have been undeniably good though each good thing has been tinged with a darkness around the edges. Depression laying like an abyss in the background of my mind. Nightmares invading peaceful sleep for the kids (and then for us when they cry and scream). Old wounds coming up fresh in our marriage and working hard to know and love each other well again.
June was a particularly hard month— the tension of darkness and stress formed a pressure I couldn’t bear anymore. I lost hope and reason to keep going.
I’m over at the The Mudroom today talking about hope and my soul’s wellness:
I told my husband I felt like shattered pieces of glass lying on the floor with no one to help me, no one who knew how to put me back together. The cracks in myself, in our marriage, in my parenting had come to a pressure point, and the pieces that were held in tension gave way.
My survival technique of sucking it up and doing the next thing helped me get to where I was, but it left me exhausted and depressed. I had no energy to figure out how to disciple my kids in faith, to work harder toward health in our marriage, to know whether I was going through a bout of depression or recognizing a long-term struggle with it. I just knew I couldn’t go any further. I wanted to pause time, to escape for a moment to some place where I could breathe, to break away from the clinging and whining, and be still, at peace. But the fantasies of escaping turned dark, and even though I looked fine on the outside, I wasn’t well within.
I should be listening to the lecture, but I look around the room full of women and I can only focus on one thing- everyone else’s hair. Long straight hair, the typical top knot, a short bob, the classic old lady’s perm, but from my point of view no one seems to be worried about the amount of hair that sits on their head.
Except for me.
I sit there self-conscious about how much scalp is showing because these days my hair is falling out in chunks. My ponytail is so thin I’m afraid my hair tie will be too heavy for it, and throughout the day loose strands continue to find their way to the ground like leaves in the fall. Instead of a crown of glory, my hair- the little I have- has become a source of embarrassment and shame.
I’ve lost simple pleasures as my hair has thinned out more and more- being out in the sun without burning my scalp, pinning my hair in any way without exposing the white skin underneath, enjoying the luxury of a quick and easy hair style. I’d give anything to do a top knot each morning and look put together for the rest of the day. Instead I keep my hair down most of the time in hopes no one will notice how bad it really is.
Maybe that’s the reason this shame is coming back full force. We’re in the awkward stages of a new season, and I feel on display. New friendships. New church. New community. Like a balding weirdo placed under the heat of the spotlight, I dance and do my tricks to show off my best self and cross my fingers that someone passing by might be interested in letting me into their lives. Every part of me feels clumsy and out of place, and my soul feels just as exposed as my scalp.
Am I too much for some people? How do I act like a regular church attendee when I’ve been a pastor for the past 7 years? What do I do with my love and need for people when those around me are too busy to meet? How can I make new friends without looking too desperate? Can people see how hard this really is for me or am I fooling them to think I’m ok?
I put on a brave face and smile as if everything is all right, but the questions dart across my mind quicker than I can stop them and the pinging gives me a headache. I wish I could make it all go away. I wish I could fast forward to when I will have found a better rhythm for my life and new friends who will understand as old friends do. I wish I didn’t have to go through the pain of beginning again because it’s a lot more difficult than I had expected it to be. It’s lonely, it wears down my spirit, and yet I know this is where I’m supposed to be. It’s uncomfortable, and it requires a lot of intentional investment, but it’s our new normal, and I’d be a fool to try to rush through it.
Nothing is gained when I short cut the process. I know right now is about slow, about rest, about learning the unforced rhythms of grace. I don’t want to waste this painful but necessary time to grow, to learn who I am without all my doing. So I’m taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. I can’t see ahead or even plan a month in advance so I’m going to settle into our current present and keep going. Breathe in. Breathe out. One day at a time. One awkward interaction at a time. One vulnerable moment at a time. I’m going to lean in and pay attention and water the grass I’m standing on.